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Demoscene tunes

Since pop music is so crap, I've been listening to more and more "demoscene" tracks and derivatives lately. It's so much better than anything you'll find in the shops!

Nectarine is a streaming MP3 radio station dedicated to scene music. No adverts and no commercial trash. Marvellous! Some songs aren't that great since they're written to go with a demo, but there are nuggets of pure lo-fi melody hidden away there. Stuff written by kids in their bedrooms in the 80s. Stuff written purely for the listener. Stuff that's actually original!

One dimensional and loving it

Once you acknowledge the talent required to make constrained art, you can't help but start to like it. The SID chip found in the C64 is about the most constrained music writing environment there is, so the SID artists had and have no choice but to pack their songs with baroque creativity. Look at D'you know what I mean? by Oasis. Third album, height of their power. They had unlimited resources, and they used them all. Result: one of the silliest most overproduced tracks ever, tarnishing an otherwise good song. SIDs (and to a lesser degree mods) are the precise opposite: if Bach respawned today, he'd be a chiptune DJ.

(As it happens, I find the SID sounds a bit harsh and grating, so I prefer remixes of old songs with modern samples)

So what does it sound like? Here's what I'm liking right now, in no particular order:

  1. beek - substitutionology (so much my favourite at one point that I overlistened to it and got sick of it)
  2. mitch and dane - gloria (wish somebody would remix this)
  3. quazar - funky stars (minimal construction, maximal tune)
  4. kb - candytron (there has yet to be a bad thing ending in "tron")
  5. Desert Planet - Asteroid Hopper (gets better each time)
  6. elwood - deadlock, fall from sky, feats of valor, into the shadow, sick on monday, sweet dreams

    This guy was doing dance music before there was dance music.

  7. elwood - past and present (best of his dancey stuff)
  8. elwood - beyond the rainbow, i can seek, stompin little scouts (everybody likes this one), and waverider are also good.
  9. Yip (arr. LMan) - Scroll Machine (5th dream about happiness)
    • SID original is unremarkable, LMan's remix is awesome.
  10. Machinae Supremacy

    The only "real" band on this list. Swedish heavy metal band with SID special effects. Like listening to Iron Maiden and playing a sympathetic C64 at the same time, i.e. great sound, silly lyrics. Best songs:

    • Winterstorm
    • Bouff (10/10 without the voice, 6/10 with it)
    • Follower
    • Earthbound
    • Hero
    • Great Giana Sisters (the famous/best one)
    • Sidology Episodes 1 and 3 (there is no 2!)
  11. Instant Remedy - Last Ninja, Comic Bakery, Lazy Jones. Ocean Loader is OK. All are europoppy dance remixes of C64 tunes.
  12. karsten obarski - Amegas
  13. necros - Dreaming in Green (also did "Mechanism 8" from Unreal Tournament)
  14. linus walleij - SIDamp theme (also "warez the phuture" is amusing)
  15. anybody - fairlight (classic song; 4 trillion remixes; all good)
  16. jeroen tel - the traveller
  17. jugi - onward ride
  18. Reed/Fairlight - Cyberdragon (harsh blip blop!)
  19. firestorm/doomsday - hope stays (epic cheese; fun)
  20. paso - lost scrotum (10/10 song, 0/10 name; what were you thinking, paso?)
  21. lizardking - ogle V, doskpop project, fellowship
  22. jeroen tel - mountain breeze
  23. jeroen tel - deadline
  24. captain - space debris
  25. captain - beyond music
  26. captain - mickus
  27. dizzy - banana split (ignore the stupid Axel F ripoff intro; otherwise nice)
  28. ghidorah - Toilet Story 1-6 is quite good, but has a bizarre title and puerile instrument names.
  29. stamen - so much left to say
  30. maktone - class cracktro #9
  31. jester - chipmunks (short, blip blop greatness)
  32. area 51 - stepfather (would be a lot better as a proper guitars+drums rock song)
  33. 4-mat - waterfall
  34. 4-mat - dna dream
  35. monty - something enchanted
  36. 4-mat - red sector theme (original is OK, Cirdan remix is better)
  37. tip and firefox - enigma
  38. unknown - the last hope
  39. jeroen tel - 1999 (that's 1999 bytes; marvellous constrained art)

Also, I have a half-broken OctaMED file called "Funky Fifth" apparently by Dave Sullivan. I think it's from an Amiga Format or CU Amiga coverdisk but it's nowhere on the internet. Somebody out there: help me find info about this song!

Humans: shut up, Machines: speak up

All these are good songs, but beware vocal remixes. Horrible inanity. To be shunned the same way as vocal Eurodance and candy rave should be.

Childishness is the biggest problem this kind of music faces. It's terminally associated with old games for young people and over-bouncy melodies. Demoscence people: your audience is no longer 8 years old! We're 15 now!


  1. Dave Sullivan, on Friday 28th May 2010, said:

    "Also, I have a half-broken OctaMED file called "Funky Fifth" apparently by Dave Sullivan. I think it's from an Amiga Format or CU Amiga coverdisk but it's nowhere on the internet. Somebody out there: help me find info about this song!"

    Just searched myself on'tinternet. I wrote this... damn I know it's long gone but I may have it somewhere, I for sure have a recording of it. :)

    I now do engine sounds for video games at codemasters, still in the industry so to speak. I did far nicer mods than funky fifth btw :)

  2. Duncan Murray, on Friday 20th August 2010, said:

    That is awesome! I have Funky Fifth and Misery, and I have to say these two songs are partly what defined my childhood, along with my Amiga. I listen to them both on an occasional basis now using XMP. It's bizarre because I've done random google searches for years to see who wrote this piece and what they were doing now!

    Can I listen to your other mods?!

    All best.

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